Welcome to your new gym. It is open 24 hours per day and the membership is free. Mother Nature may not provide all the equipment you need to get your train on, but with some tweaks and some creativity, you can take your training from the dungeon gym into the sunshine!
Need a reason? A study published by Environmental Science and Technology compared indoor and outdoor training in more than 800 subjects and found that people who exercise outdoors have better energy levels, decreased tension, confusion, anger, and stress than subjects who only workout indoors. So if your life takes place under a roof, car, office, gym, or home, a little sweat in the sun might just relieve some stress and make you feel better.
Not only are outdoor workouts great for your mental health, they also have great physical benefits that can make you a better athlete. Training on uneven terrains like the road, sand, or field requires more body control, balance, and it activates more joints and muscles than working out on even, indoor surfaces.
A long run becomes much more interesting if you're on a trail avoiding tree roots, rocks, barking dogs, and small children. Outdoor workouts also provide new challenges for your mind and body—it's difficult to get bored if you're always doing something new!
Still not convinced? Try it out. There are plenty of outdoor, calorie-burning activities you can do. Today, unplug from your tech-laden lifestyle with these fun workout ideas!
1 / Play sports
It might be a surprise how many outdoor sports are calorie-torchers disguised as fun. Your favorite weekend pickup game actually helps you achieve your fitness goals. Paddleboarding, tennis, beach volleyball, basketball, surfing, swimming, rock climbing, hiking, recreational football, kayaking, and soccer can burn hundreds of calories per hour.
If you're not already doing it, get a team together or join a league. Enjoy the game and the company of others. Soak up some vitamin D, and burn some calories.
2 / HIIT the Track
Head to the local school or park for some high-intensity interval training on the track, field, or basketball court. This anaerobic workout will burn major calories and is much more fun than running on the treadmill, staring at the wall. Running on a track or field is also great because you're not limited to putting one foot in front of the other.
Incorporate sprints, lateral hops, side shuffles, frog jumps, high knees, ladder drills, and forward bounds. Give your body some new tasks and reap the benefits.
3 / Put Your Body Weight to Good Use
Many CrossFit-style workouts and bodyweight circuits can be done almost anywhere because they require little equipment. Grab a pair of sneakers and head to the back yard. Try these workouts:
4 / Get Creative
The equipment found on playgrounds, in parks, along running paths, and at beaches is perfect for training. Try bodyweight exercises like pull-up variations, inverted rows, and dips. Bring a suspension trainer or resistance bands to attach to a bar to get a full-body strength workout. The throwback to your youth will keep the workout interesting.
Stairs are another effective outdoor training tool. Why stairs go overlooked is a mystery to me. Isn't a Stairmaster a gym staple? Find any staircase around town, stairs to and from a beach, at building entrances, at parks, or school stadium steps, and run up and down them. It's the perfect outdoor workout because the interval is already built in. The work comes with the climb and the rest is in the descent.
You can also add variety to target different muscle groups. Try bounding up every other stair, side stepping, high knees, or sprinting up to keep the workout interesting. If that isn't enough, work in a circuit with bodyweight moves (push-ups, squats, mountain climbers, or planks) between sets of stair climbs.
5 / Take it to the Trail
If you don't like running it's probably because you either get bored or it hurts— pavement can take a toll on the joints. Hit the trail to solve both problems. Hiking offers beautiful, changing scenery so you are less likely to get bored. The natural terrain gives a softer impact for walking and running.
Almost everyone can find a nearby trail, no matter where they live. Walk at a fast pace and pick a trail with elevation gains for a steady cardio workout or alternate bursts of running and walking for a more anaerobic workout.
6 / Fun Runs
If you're not into trails, or don't have any available place to hike nearby, try adding some spice to your normal route. Before you leave, pick five or more bodyweight exercises (push-ups, burpees, lunges, squat jumps, etc.) and choose landmarks or situations (park bench, red light, blue convertible, set of stairs, cop car, etc.) in which you have to stop and do 10 reps of that move.
For example, every time you get stuck at a red light do 10 squat jumps. This mixes cardio with strength moves and keeps you engaged with your surroundings for the entire workout.
For some extra competition and fun, bring a workout buddy along for the run!